Thursday Football Notebook
Game 11: NC State Wolfpack (6-4, 3-3) vs. Clemson Tigers (9-1, 6-1)
PACK LOOKS FOR THE CIGAR AGAINST TIGERS
The FSU game on Oct. 6 marked the second time that the Wolfpack has hosted a top-10 foe at home during O’Brien’s tenure. Seventh-ranked Clemson visited Carter-Finley last season and left with a 37-13 defeat at the hands of the Pack.
If you’re a superstitious person, you might not want to play on the right side of NC State’s offensive line. Both veteran starters who began the season at the right guard and tackle spots have missed significant time with injuries, while the top backup is now out as well.
Right guard Zach Allen had started 31 straight games at that position before suffering a season-ending foot injury at Miami. Allen, the Pack’s leading run-blocker, was a seasoned veteran with 2,399 career snaps to his credit.
Duran Christophe, who started a dozen games at left guard last season, took over for Allen when he went down. However, he suffered a head injury in the Virginia game and had to sit out versus Wake Forest. His status for the Clemson game is questionable.
Andrew Wallace, who started at guard in 2010 and missed most of last season with a knee injury, was the Pack’s starter at right tackle heading into 2012. He started the first four contests this season before suffering a foot injury against the Citadel. He sat out the next four games and reinjured his foot in practice last week. He was listed as questionable before the Wake Forest game, but was able to come in and play at left guard.
THERE’S NO RUSH
Prior to Saturday’s win over Wake Forest, the Wolfpack’s rushing game had been woefully absent in the last four games - two of which were losses. NC State averaged just 48 rushing yards per game in those contests. In each of those four contests, the Pack rushed for less than 70 yards - that hasn’t happened since 1985, when the Pack rushed for less than 70 yards as a team in five straight contests.
Three of those four opponents were ranked among the national leaders in rushing defense (Florida State, Maryland and North Carolina).
The Pack is hopefully rushing in the right direction heading into the Clemson game, however, as the Pack’s 170 yards on the ground versus Wake Forest was the most since the Sept. 29 game at Miami. A State player (Tony Creecy) scored on a rushing touchdown for the first time since that Miami game as well and another player (Shadrach Thornton) posted a 100-yard rushing output for the first time since the loss to the ‘Canes.
At times this season, the Pack has looked impressive running the football. Against the Citadel, the team gained 282 rushing yards - the team’s highest total since 2005. In the next game, at Miami, State gained 224 rushing yards. That marked the first time since 1998 that the Pack has posted back-to-back games with over 200 yards rushing.
Prior to the 2012 season, red-shirt junior weakside linebacker Rickey Dowdy had played exactly one snap in his entire career. That one snap came during the 2010 campaign and he did not see action in 2011. In the season opener of 2012, he played 58 snaps, tallying seven tackles in the Pack’s loss to Tennessee.
Now 10 games later, Dowdy is continuing to show improvement and now leads the team with 11.5 tackles for loss - a mark that ranks fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference this week.
THIRD AND OUT
When the Pack’s opposition gets to third down, their punter better be warming up. NC State ranks second in the ACC and third nationally in third down conversion defense. The Wolfpack is allowing its opponents to convert at just a 25.3 clip this season.
In the last nine games, the Wolfpack defense has held the opponents to a .239 (29-121) percentage on third down conversions. From late in the UConn game, until the 3rd quarter against The Citadel, opponents went 16 consecutive third downs without a conversion. Florida State was converting exactly half of the time on third down coming into the game against a fired-up Pack defense that allowed them to convert just three of 15 third down attempts.
On Sept. 15, Mike Archer’s defensive unit held South Alabama without a third or fourth down conversion on the game as the Jaguars finished 0-for-11 on third down and 0-for-1 on fourth. The last time NC State had held a team without a third down conversion came in 1992, when the Pack forced Virginia Tech to an 0-for-12 mark, a span of 228 games.